The Dumbest Casting Ethics Controversy Yet

Sometimes the line between confused ethics and plain old stupidity is razor thin. This controversy is one of those times.

Actor Bryan Cranston, best known for “Breaking Bad,”  is being criticized for playing a a quadriplegic billionaire in “The Upside,” his new film  released Friday, because he is not actually handicapped.

He’s also not a billionaire, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue for some reason.

Jay Ruderman of the Ruderman Family Foundation complained, “While we don’t know the auditioning history of ‘The Upside,” casting a non-disabled actor to play a character with a disability is highly problematic and deprives performers with disabilities the chance to work and gain exposure.”

No, Jay, it isn’t problematic, because the primary objective of the performing arts is not, and has never been, to provide “the chance to work and gain exposure.” This is the affirmative action mentality that as it gets stretched further and further from reality and common sense by the woke and the wokeness-addled, increasingly ensures that society eventually  rejects the whole tortured concept. The objective of the performing arts is to entertain, engage and enlighten the audience. That requires casting the best actors available, and in film, frequently the best know actors, in the judgment of the director and the producer. Bryan Cranston is one of the most skilled actors in the world. I am extremely confident that there isn’t a single quadriplegic actor that can equal him, if indeed there are any at all. Audrey Hepburn could also play a blind woman better than any of the few available blind actresses, when she starred in “Wait Until Dark.” Tom Hanks and cliff Roberrtson could play  mentally-challenged caharcters in “Forrest Gump” and “Charlie” better than any mentally-challenged actors.

I can’t believe we even have to have this conversation.

Naturally, social media is where the real idiocy resides. Wrote one tweeter: “The fact that @BryanCranston believes he is qualified to play someone disabled is highly offensive. Nondisabled actors cannot act disabled because disability is not something you can act. You either are disabled or you aren’t.” I guess this whole acting concept is over some people’s heads. Another reliable den of dimwits, the Huffington Post, spawned this piece of signature significance: “People with disabilities are tired of constantly fighting for opportunities, space and a platform,” HuffPo editor Wendy Lu wrote in a Friday op-ed. “Until disabled talent starts being recognized in Hollywood, actors like Cranston should step offstage and pass the mic to the people in the communities they are so eager to portray.”

See, Wendy, this is a nice sentiment in professions and occupations where 1) people with disabilities can genuinely compete on the basis of merit, and 2) when the disabled talent pool in a field is large enough to create a sufficient number of genuine outstanding talents.  Acting is not one of those fields; neither is gymnastics, or tuna fishing, or piano moving. Why don’t you scream at the sky for a while?

The whole “controversy”—there is no controversy, just publicity seekers and disability activists looking for something to protest—is reminiscent of Peter Cook and Dudley’s Moore’s skit about the one -legged man auditioning to be Tarzan…

Opportunity is nice, but the fact is that you ultimately have to be able to play the role, you have to be convincing in it, and the audience has to be engaged. One of the most famous of the few examples where a handicapped actor has been cast to play a character with a similar disability was in the classic WW II film, “The Best Years of Their Lives.” Harold Russell, who had lost both arms in the war, played a returning GI having to adjust to living with prosthetic arms, and also to the reactions of his family, friends and co-workers to his handicap. It was stunt casting: Russell won an Oscar, and no critic was courageous enough to be honest, but it’s just an earnest job by an acting novice. Today, when technology allows “abled” actors to appear to be without limbs (as with Gary Sinise in “Forrest Gump”) there would be no excuse for casting a novice actor in the role just because he had hooks for hands.

Cranston blathered about the issue to the British Press Association earlier this week, saying, “If I, as a straight, older person, and I’m wealthy, I’m very fortunate, does that mean I can’t play a person who is not wealthy, does that mean I can’t play a homosexual?” he asked. “I don’t know, where does the restriction apply, where is the line for that?”

There is no line, Bryan, and no restriction. You’re not helping. Later, trying to signal his virtue, the actor added, semi-incoherently,

“I think it points out the lack of diversity in disabled actors and the lack of opportunity in order to be even considered to play the lead role in a film like this. Are there any actors who have reached any kind of star status to be able to be considered? I think by not coming up with an answer to that is the answer to that. There is a dearth of opportunity for actors with a disability.”

Uh, yes, Bryan, because their disability limits the kinds of roles disabled actors can play convincingly, and thus they will never have the opportunity to be star on your level, or to be able to acquire the performing experience to aspire to it. This isn’t discrimination, injustice, or prejudice. It’s called reality.

27 thoughts on “The Dumbest Casting Ethics Controversy Yet

  1. And of course, what happens when an actually disabled actor is cast to play a role whose disability is central to the character and the story, as in Cranston’s new film? The very same people will be caterwauling that the disabled actor shouldn’t just be relegated to playing disabled characters, and that Hollywood is typecasting them…

  2. Late night musings:

    There is a show called the “Postal Inspectors”, who’s main character is the wheelchair bound son of the aforementioned postal inspector. The actor is not handicapped. How rude! The show also features flashbacks to life before the disabling accident. How inconvenient!

    Stephen Hawking starred in documentary based on a book he wrote. Yet, he only manually selected a few words by having his pupils tracked at the start of each segment. Is it Is it offensive that others typed his lines into the text-to-voice box for the majority of the voice over narration?,

    Eddie Redmayne starred as Hawking in a biopic. I haven’t seen the movie, but the previews show a young, able-bodied Hawking. Should they cast a real actor with ALS, filming his able-bodied scenes first, and then waiting twenty years to finish the movie?

  3. These social warriors weren’t nearly as caring about the livelihoods of others when they shut down circus side shows which ultimately harmed everyone involved. Many of the people who were in those side shows would never be able to find any other work so they lost all of their ability to care for themselves. Progress!

    This reminds me medieval times where only men could act. Even if the roles were women. I guess we have to cast people to play the roles only if they fit exactly into this perfect exact niche? You don’t have ALS? Well I guess you can’t have a role where the character portrayed has ALS. You need an actor to act as if they have Down syndrome? Better go find that special actor with that Down syndrome.

    This is asinine and only hurts the arts and free thoughts. You would think artists would be one of the biggest groups to defend free speech and thought and the ability for anyone to do anything they strive to do. Not to force pigeonholing.

    • There are actually a few actors out there that do have Down’s Syndrome and could get roles. (https://www.imdb.com/list/ls040753614/). That particular disability is harder to fake, in my opinion, than maybe playing someone that is mentally handicapped (is that the PC term these days? I can’t keep up with them all..) in other ways.

      There does seem to be a rise of actors with disabilities. RJ Mitte who played Bryan’s son in Breaking Bad does actually have Cerebral Palsy, as does MIcah Fowler who is in the sitcom “Speechless” and although he can speak, has a non-verbal role in the show. His sometimes co-actors on the show Zach Anner (who is also a writer for the show) and Cole Massey also have CP. Cole was also in “Glee” along with Lauren Potter who has Down’s Syndrome.

      My point being that disabled actors are getting cast, just not fast enough or in enough roles to suit the SJW world. I’ve heard no complaints when gay men or women take on roles where they play straight people. Neil Patrick Harris comes to mind as the biggest one in the category. But reverse that and it’s a big deal.

      Personally, I don’t care who plays what as the whole purpose of acting is to take on a character that is not who you are and make that character come to life in the setting you’re in. Remember the story of Orsen Wells at the age of 23 reading War of the Worlds so well on a radio broadcast people thought it was real? I think that’s what acting is supposed to be – convincing. Regardless of who plays the role.

      • This reminds me of a beef I had with the surreal horror podcast “Welcome to Night Vale”, which I stopped following not long after a segment of the audience demanded that only a gay Latino actor could be cast to voice a gay Latino character. This is fine, but the character in question was a man of substance and the actor cast does not sound like one at all. I’m sure I’m being discriminatory in some way to think so, though.

        The show’s whole schtick got old and silly around episode 65 or so anyway.

    • These social warriors weren’t nearly as caring about the livelihoods of others when they shut down circus side shows which ultimately harmed everyone involved. Many of the people who were in those side shows would never be able to find any other work so they lost all of their ability to care for themselves. Progress!

      Here in Australia, the pastime of dwarf tossing faced the same pressures – over the strenuous objections of many of the highly skilled dwarfs involved (they had had to master grappling with their targets).

      The earliest analogous case I know of, where the virtuous prevailed at others’ expense, was the Victorian banning of working dogs that used to pull small carts for tradesmen and do other such work. Naturally, practically all such dogs were put down as no longer affordable by their still poor owners.

  4. Casting query I haven’t seen anywhere (not that I’ve really looked very hard): Is it socially acceptable to have Felicity Jones, a British, thoroughly non-Jewish and goyish, actress play Ruth Bader Ginsberg in “On the Basis of Sex?” According to the current rules, I have to believe it’s NOT. Why has this production been given a pass? Is this fair to American, Jewish, Brooklyn-born actresses that are out of work?

    • That one is particularly strange casting to me, because from the clips I’ve seen, Jones isn’t very good at assuming an American accent. Whatever she’s doing in that film, she doesn’t sound British anymore, but many of her words sound strange.

      If it turns out that Ginsburg’s voice in her youth sounded like a British person with a head injury not quite doing an American accent, I will retract this statement and applaud Ms. Jones’ commitment to the role.

      • The American left adores British actresses du jour. Remember Hillary Clinton wanting to be Emma Thompson, and thinking she was? Pouty Emma was an absolute limousine liberal icon for most of the Clinton era.

    • The original Bill, who is an actor and mad at me or something, used to complain about this all the time. Once Brits mastered American accents around the 90’s, productions started hiring them over US actors (they are cheaper.) “Walking Dead” is a prime example.

      • An American mezzo soprano I had the good fortune of getting to know worked primarily in European opera houses. She made the same complaint about Russian trained singers who will evidently willingly work for much less than their non-Russian fellows.

  5. I just watched an episode of “House, MD” on one of those satellite stations that marathons it occasionally. Correct me if I am wrong, but I am of the belief that Hugh Laurie has a pair of well functioning legs. Could they find no one with a bum hip, or even bone spurs for the central role?

    And an emphatic to second to the motion for a hastened demise of Affirmative Action.

        • I don’t think he can hold a candle to Ian Carmichael, though of course he benefited from having Denis Price as Jeeves – a far better Jeeves than Hugh Laurie’s Jeeves, Stephen Fry.

          Interestingly, both Price and Fry were homosexual, which may have helped them get into the role. Many real life servants of that sort – “gentlemen’s gentlemen” – were, which may be hinted at by their club in the fictional Wooster world being called the “Junior Ganymede”. (See also Somerset Maugham’s “The Treasure” which, like “Brief Encounter” or “Farewell, Victoria”, transmogrifies a socially unacceptable male original into a female.)

  6. I, for one, applaud this action. Progressives dominate Hollywood and they have brought this upon themselves. I look forward to movie after movie being protested because its casting isn’t sufficiently progressive. I look forward to production after production failing or being cancelled before it even begins.

    I have nothing to lose in this action. I just looked at the list of ‘Top 55 movies of 2018’. OK, I only made it halfway through the list because I had only heard of 1/3 of them. The others weren’t even advertised in my local area (of 5 million people). Even less were shown in the theaters in my town. Hollywood only cares about the progressive left, so they should be answerable to the progressive left. It is routine for me to see big controversy online about a movie that I haven’t heard of, only to find out that it has been in theaters for weeks. Hollywood has decided that I am beneath them and they will not make movies for people like me.

    I look forward to the destruction of Hollywood. It will be the most entertainment I have gotten from them in a long time.

  7. Audie Murphy was miscast in To Hell and Back.

    The Audie Murphy of World War 2 fame was between 17 and 20 years of age, while the actor Audie Murphy was fully a decade older when he portrayed the famous war hero in the movie. That kind of age discrepancy makes it very inappropriate to cast the actor Audie Murphy as the soldier Audie Murphy.

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